The Arrangement of Spices

By Carol Smallwood

How should one organize kitchen spices—alphabetically, size, or age?


Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of curry against cumin,

pepper pushing cinnamon, onion salt hugging ginger that keeps mine jumbled, free from a cleaning lady.


Spice shelves are for wondering if bay leaves crowned early Olympic winners,

conjuring India with curry, contemplating romance with rosemary leaves, thyme;

to linger over crushed red pepper, the color of cayenne, sturdiness of stick cinnamon furls. To savor cans still shiny. Remember marjoram, savory, and braided cardamom bread.


When my son opened the spice shelves last Christmas he said,

“Hey, Ma, it looks like something out of Mad Men.” I replied I’d liked that show of the Sixties—not asking if he remembered allspice and ginger in cakes and cookies, tasting vanilla, adding breasts to angel cookies for Christmas.


Spices are what I paced by back and forth in grocery stores debating divorce,

torn between hearth and freedom.


Now I try to forget the clang they’ll make tossed when I’m gone.


Carol Smallwood co-edited (Molly Peacock, foreword) Women on Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (McFarland, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) was nominated for the Pushcart. Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, (Key Publishing House, 2012) is her most recent book. Her sixth anthology for the American Library Association, Bringing Arts into the Library, is forthcoming. Some magazine credits include: The Writer’s Chronicle, English Journal.

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